growing in a Greenhouse and polythene covered tunnel
I’m amazed by the number of questions I receive on how to grow less common fruits and vegetables, especially tropical and eastern herbs and spices.
I doubt there is any gardener who has ever bought a new greenhouse who did not wish they had got a bigger one . I should know; I started with a small lean-to greenhouse, intended mostly for propagation, of course I managed to squeeze in a few tomato and pepper plants. Well this soon showed itself to be so useful I got a second-hand eight by twelve foot greenhouse.
Please don't think I'm joking, this is not a wind up or an early April Fool. Pineapples really are one of the most amazingly easy, reliable and remarkably trouble free plants to get to crop. Honest. I've written about them before but still only a few people seem to have tried them yet. I guess they seem too exotic, or maybe the old boys made it sound all too complicated or hinted one needed a stove house the size of Kew's. Nope pineapples just need to be kept frost free. That's it, no more complicated than citrus, indeed easier.
I doubt there is any other vegetable that has so rapidly become so widely popular even amongst newer gardeners and those with only a balcony. The number of varieties on sale today as seeds and plants is huge compared to only a decade ago. (I know peppers are technically fruits, but like tomatoes peppers come under the ambit of the vegetable rather than the fruit garden.) Whereas when I first started there were few sweet (bell) peppers worth growing and almost no hot (chilli) pepper varieties now there approach hundreds of both.
There can be few crops that are worth more apiece than melons and watermelons. These are so much better home grown than bought and yet are not commonly grown in most kitchen gardens. Melons are not actually difficult to grow, and it’s only a little more effort to get really good ones, watermelons are difficult but worth it. First though forget about growing them outdoors, without some sort of cover, cold frame or cloche, I have tried for twenty five years and the results have always been pathetic.
Used since Roman times with a coldframe on top hot beds were often referred to in older gardening books but now are never seen in modern works. Yet they are an effective way to grow many tender crops. Moreover a hot bed is very ecological as instead of burning fuel or electricity a hot bed produces it's own heat by fermentation.
Over the years I have tried to grow almost every edible plant and crop and sometimes been surprised by outstanding successes. To some it may seem unlikely that we could cultivate any tropical plants here in the cold climate of Britain but of course with glass or plastic protection and additional heat we can grow almost anything; I've even produced respectable crops of bananas and pineapples.
When I first started gardening I rarely had much of a garden, or one for very long. I grew many different plants in pots, mainly because I was moving frequently and wanted to keep them with me. I grew a great many herbs, quite a few vegetables and some odd house plants. (I've always sown seeds of strange fruits to see what I can grow). When I went travelling abroad they needed watering but at least they were portable so could stay with friends for the duration.
Outdoors it's possible to grow most crops with a visit once a week, or even less. Under cover, unless you are ruthless with your planning and invest in automatic systems, you MUST visit more frequently, probably at least twice daily, and preferably more often. Outdoors we can often rely on nature to provide the water and change the air as our plants require. Under cover we are in charge and must do these important tasks not only well, but also with monotonous, unbroken, regularity.
Sweet potatoes are hardly ever attempted as crops, which is surprising. They give remarkably large crops and are rich in vitamin A, and some varieties make gorgeous flowering climbers into the bargain. They're considerably easier to grow than many other greenhouse crops and do not suffer much from most of the usual pests and diseases. Indeed I just do not understand why they are not more widely grown.